What Am I SO AFRAID of?

Laurie looking afraid by a music stand with acting copy on it
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Dang! I become almost paralyzed by fright, even in my PJs and in my own home, when I think of doing character voice.

Why Aren’t Cha Talking About It?

Normally when I wrestle with twisty emotions, off I go up the mountain to record a show! But as I reported in yesterday’s status, through over-zealous voice practice I strained my vocal chords a bit the day before and so don’t think going out in allergy season and projecting on the mountain would help me get ready to practice today.

And voice issues aside, I DO want to rehearse my sides (script) for character animation class.

But there is ONE BIG PROBLEM! I have become almost phobic about it. The weird thing is that David, my coach and teacher, has this one exercise we do in class, where we come up to a music stand full of turned over scripts for different characters and bits. Some animation, some commercial. We go one right after the other and we have NO time to think, we just turn over the next script and go. When I do these exercises, I’m fearless, usually intuitive and often get a decent voice of some sort out of my gullet.

Give me a script to work on though, and I can’t utter a squeak from it without feeling faint and forgetting to breathe.

What’s UP with that?

First guess is perfectionism. But why? I know full well I am WORKING on a bit for class. I WILL get feedback, and David is a kind and gentle director. My fellow voice actors are likewise supportive and rooting for me and each other. I feel terribly frustrated.

Looking for answers I searched the net on performance anxiety -a.k.a STAGE FRIGHT. And found this:

This article was very helpful. I especially like tip number 1.

Shift the focus from yourself and your fear to your true purpose—contributing something of value to your audience.

If I try to make hearing my lines fun for you, it is easier than trying to “do them right”.

Nervous feelings of failure bleeding through a take tend to make for unfunny animation reads – unless the CHARACTER is feeling that too. (Too bad I don’t have one of THOSE to work on, I would be a natural!)

There Has to Be More to the Story…

In therapy I have learned when my emotional response is dialed much higher than circumstances call for, I am reacting to past events or emotions that I have bottled up vs. the actual event in question. We can all agree that practicing character voices by myself in my own home is NOT a usual cause for fear. What is the worse that can happen? If I can’t risk at home, how can I risk in class, or in an actual audition?

Part of the answer is in my acting past and in my expectation of myself.

B Level Acting Student

My youthful acting adventures mirror much of how my life has gone when I attempt to do something new. For perfectionism’s sake, let’s define someone who is very good, does great and progresses to the top of the class, gets the job, gets the promotion whatever that goal may be, as an A level “fill in the blank”. For this story, we’ll say A level Acting Student.

Here’s my progression.

  1. I have an interest in acting
  2. I go to acting class
  3. I have natural charisma and ability
  4. I impress the teacher with my early “potential”
  5. I dig in to learn and do the work (craft) of acting
  6. Turns out my potential was over rated.
  7. I slip down the rankings of students.
  8. I don’t get as much attention from the teacher as before
  9. I work harder.
  10. The harder I work, the further down the slope I go.
  11. I’m not the worst, but nowhere near the top. I’m B level
  12. I see I’m not going to make it to A level
  13. I give up
  14. I internalize that I am a failure

This is the story of my 3 years as a serious acting student. In beginning class the teacher was excited to work with me, I had TONS of potential. The best student directors were happy to work with me. At the beginning level I was top drawer. Then we all moved on to the next expectation. I was still pretty good, but the others, via craft were overtaking my natural ability. I couldn’t seem to get a handle on the craft as well as they could. I panicked. The harder I tried, the worse I became at acting. I’m still a pretty good learner, and still had some natural ability, so I never flunked out, just kept getting the parts that don’t give as much experience to move forward. Here is also where the director wanted to hear me sing, convinced an undiscovered great ‘Voice’ would emerge. Instead, the verdict was that I could not sing – hence another disappointing blackmark against all of the prior ‘potential’. My parts became less and less. I excelled in directing and coaching others. THEY excelled with my advice. For me, I overthought my instincts and when the time came to move on to audition for prestigious drama schools, both my teacher and I knew I wouldn’t cut it. Time to go into education instead.

Repeat this same progression with ANYTHING I wanted for myself – getting speaking gigs, with promotion in corporate America, or almost any scenario from my life. Even my first podcast!

Let’s look:

  1. I have an interest in podcasting
  2. I make Daily Adventure Tales
  3. I have natural charisma and ability
  4. People like to listen and download the show
  5. I dig in to learn and do the work of making a POPULAR podcast
  6. Turns out my potential was over rated. My show stagnates
  7. I slip down the rankings of iTunes
  8. I don’t get as much attention from the audience as before
  9. I work harder.
  10. The harder I work, the further down the slope I go.
  11. I’m not the worst podcast, but nowhere near the top. I’m B level
  12. I see I’m not going to make it to A level
  13. I give up
  14. I internalize that I am a failure

Separating Facts from Fears

In a way, my natural inclination and ability to learn and assimilate quickly, and almost without thinking, has been a stumbling block for me. Because I don’t know HOW I learn, and for most tasks in school and life, I can intuitively do enough to get by and to even have some level of success. But for most goals one can aspire to, one MUST DO THE ACTUAL WORK! And it is at THAT point, I often crash and burn. It’s not that I’m lazy, far from it, but I have a really hard time integrating things I learn from outside of myself into my intuitive learning style.

Hmmm, sounds a little bit like why I thrive on Intuitive Eating and HATE all diet plans of any type. But back to my topic.

I don’t think I’m stuck up, or think I’m a know-it-all. I think I really HAVE HAD trouble processing new information internally so that I can make use of it naturally. And naturally is where I do well. Even my programming skill I learned on my own as I needed it. I figured it out as I went. I had one HECK of a time passing my certification exams though, because I had to systematically learn principles and apply them to theoretical situations vs. real life applications.

Maybe I am super literal?

But in acting, one cannot be so in one’s head. One must get down to the heart, while still hitting the mark, still being in time, still doing all of the technical bits one must – like breathing correctly.

In my own eyes I see I am an intuitive super star, and have some level of learning disability. But as a teacher, I know that ALL students can learn what they need, it just sometimes takes a difference input method for them to make sense of it.

I wonder If I can try this for myself?

Fear Revealed

What is fear after all? It is an instinct to protect us from danger. What is my fear of actually doing the work protecting me from?

As you can see from my progression lists, that ‘doing the work’ is where I perceive the turning point from potential to failure to happen for me. I think I can’t possibly succeed in the realm of doing work as expected. Wow, I really think I cannot! What BS! I can too do work, and I CAN learn. I am as capable of success as the next person.

Somehow I need to harness my intuitive senses to my path for learning externally.

I need to embrace tip number 10 from the article:

Give up trying to be perfect and know that it is OK to make mistakes. Be natural, be yourself.

If I do my best to make my character reading fun for the audience, and communicate what the script is telling you about the character’s physical and emotional state, if I give myself permission to be what ever level of actor I am at the moment. If I can ACTUALLY FEEL OK where I am, instead of waiting for A+ to feel ok, then I can move forward.

This is just like the work I’ve done to feel OK as a person at the weight I am at instead of waiting for thin. Wow, BCs, this is ALL related. I just need to learn how to get over the bump of normal progress vs. stellar achievement (stellar achievement is needed to overcompensate when you don’t REALLY feel great about yourself). I need to treat acting as I do my body. Laurie, your acting is fine as it is today, because your ability is as it is today. Your ability will blossom as it will. This is not a race, it’s an experience. You love to tell stories. You LOVE to use your voice. Why not tell the story of how you became happy by risking being B+? Tell Why grades don’t matter. Why pounds don’t matter. Why podcast statistics don’t matter. All that matters is the connections you make with the world and with yourself. All that matters is that you have fun right now. Take a risk. Be funny. Have some fun!

Ok BCs, time to go practice.

xoxoxoxoxoxox

Comments box:

12 thoughts on “What Am I SO AFRAID of?

  1. Dawny

    Wow!!!!

    So much to ponder AND think!! I love the ‘work-thru’ scenarios. That really takes some thinking and pondering and it’s awesome how your working your way thru laurie =<}.
    Your so strong! It's really inspiring that you keep searching to find your answers. Your going to resolve it.

    I hope the day turns lovely for you

    Reply
    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      My day got better, even though my voice still needed to rest after all. By the end of it all, I was able to rebuild my confidence and to come up with some ways to help myself. Thanks kiddo for your support, it SO makes a difference! xoxoxoxox

      Reply
  2. Cassie

    Laurie, I need to tell you that no matter how self critical you are (I know where you’re coming from) the paralysis is real!!! Your working through your struggles in front of my very ears has been the best, most illuminating, self-hate exonerating thing that has ever happened to me. I know I don’t KNOW you, but you feel like kindred. I can’t thank you enough for sharing all of your struggles with us. My menopausal dried up eyes never fail to produce tears when you strike a familiar chord in my heart. Let’s not even go to the dried uppedness in this stage of life. You have given me grist for the mill of my psyche. Bless you and your bravery.
    LOVE

    Reply
    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      My menopausal dried up eyes never fail to produce tears when you strike a familiar chord in my heart. Let’s not even go to the dried uppedness in this stage of life.

      Hahahahahaha this made me laugh SO hard! I TOTALLY am living this statement. 😉 It is amazing how much our bodies change as we age. BUT if we look at it as another F-ing adventure, we can live through it. Thanks for posting this and helping me out yesterday. I was in a funk for sure, and your support helped so much. Paralysis is the perfect word. I get SO MAD AT MYSELF for not being able to move or breathe. But now I know, that all I can do to fix matters is breathe. And if ALL I do is breathe, and I can’t get a word out, I’m ahead of the game. xoxoxoxoxoxo

      Reply
  3. Amy from WI

    I also love these posts where you are thinking out loud. It helps me with my own thought processes when I can see yours. I do believe perfectionism has a whole lot to do with what you are going through. One more thing to think about…could being your own worst critic have a play in this? Perhaps your fear (even though you are alone at home) comes because you will be hard on yourself, even if no one else is! That is true for me, anyway.

    ((Hugs to you)) I hope the practicing is coming along well.

    Reply
    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      Hi Amy! How’s it going with you? Perfectionism is as much a part of me as being right handed. Just like someone who MUST learn to use their other hand (or feet) after injury, I need to learn WhatEverIsm…. My critic can be as rageful at my perceived flaws as I get when I’m pissed at some poor shlub like the lady at the restaurant on my birthday, and that is NOT a fun experience. So bit, by bit, I’m trying to gain the skill to dismantle these useless auto-pilot defenses. Thanks for supporting me with this comment. It REALLY helped me to feel loved and valued, voice or NO voice. xoxoxoxoxox

      Reply
  4. Stéfanie

    Wow. Laurie, get out of my head.

    This post is like a revelation to me. I feel so appealed by everything you are describing, as to working to achieve VS intuitively learning. I remember how I struggled in my physics class in high school because I had to do that thing called studying, with what I have very little experience with. It is still my main way of working, as it is in teaching or in arts.

    Very interesting. Thank you.

    Stéfanie xx

    Reply
    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      Why am I not surprised dearest Stéfanie that we share this in common? I always have hated the disappointment that comes in the eyes of my teachers/coaches/bosses when my earlier amazing promise peters out as I need to do the actual work and learn the principles of the said task vs. wing it. I think Voice Acting will be good for me as I MUST learn the craft to progress and I want to progress. Emotionally, very tough, like having to lift bigger weights to grow the muscle. I’m having to increase my persistence, fortitude and “let it go” muscle on this one. All good. xoxoxoxoxox

      Reply
  5. Petra

    Hi Laurie,
    I’m just sitting at work, and basically just waiting for the weekend to start 🙂 So I’m stumbled over this blog post, and am kind of: Wow, I can so relate!
    I’ve got the same with lots of things I’m starting out with. It can be a new job, hobby, physically, or intellectually. I usually exceed expectations in the beginning, but then progress stops, and I get “overtaken” (I don’t want to see anything as a competition) left right and centre.
    I always took it down to that there’s no expectation in the beginning at all. You literally just give it a go. But when you are really good in the beginning, everybody thinks that you should become amazing, and that is a lot of pressure. And me no liking pressure! 🙂 Not at all!
    And to get better it involves work, just as you said. The tedious kind. The trial and error (error being very frustrating). The slow process. The boring way. The getting easily distracted kind of way.
    But I love to watch, how others, who started “averagely”, but their mindset is right, and they just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, not getting discouraged, when things go a bit pear-shaped. I watch them grow in the field, whatever it is, but also the growth their confidence, their abilities, how they “earn their place”.
    And I try to learn to just keep going, even when things don’t develop in light speed, learn to deal with set backs, “doing my best and forgetting the rest”, as Tony Horton says. Not paying too much attention to judgement of others, ESPECIALLY to praise, because then it turns into pressure again.
    This is something, what I don’t and never have exceeded anybody’s expectations with 🙂

    xoxoxoxo

    Reply
    1. Laurie@CompulsiveOvereatingDiary Post author

      Hello Petra! Wow! I had to g re-read that post in order to respond to your comment. What a gift you’ve given me! I had totally forgotten about that day and those thoughts, and boy oh boy does it apply to me right now. I love this part of what you said:

      I always took it down to that there’s no expectation in the beginning at all. You literally just give it a go. But when you are really good in the beginning, everybody thinks that you should become amazing, and that is a lot of pressure. And me no liking pressure! 🙂 Not at all!
      And to get better it involves work, just as you said. The tedious kind. The trial and error (error being very frustrating). The slow process. The boring way. The getting easily distracted kind of way.

      That resonates SO much. The start is FUN because no one expects a darn thing (especially me). So I am free to just have the experience. The pressure of being ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘talented’, ‘buff’, ‘the BEST’ is paralyzing.

      And this thought of yours was truly brand new to me:

      Not paying too much attention to judgement of others, ESPECIALLY to praise, because then it turns into pressure again.

      I always assumed I craved praise and external validation – but this is SO true for me. Even when I lost the huge amount at Weight Watchers years ago – when people congratulated me, I would run for food – because the whole thing scared me so much. Even with this show, when the BCs say how much they value it (and me) I struggle with disbelief and feel that I’m fooling everyone. Only the premise of this show has allowed me to keep going. The premise is for me to be real, warts and all. But no matter how many times I’ve been vulnerable and it’s been ok, it is still really, really hard to break out of the protective perfect mask. Aha! That is the acting dilemma right there…hmmmm….need to ponder this, acting isn’t a mask, it’s a reveal. Making true connections doesn’t happen between masked people, only people who allow themselves to be seen….. BIG SMOOCHES Petra, I really like the ideas you’ve conjured up for me today. xoxoxoxoxox

      Reply

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